The Right Stuff

Ever notice how during times of transition, your To-do list grows with random tasks?

With a move, a vacation, and shifting commitments, I’ve been feeling things add up. And while I’m great at keeping track of it all, it can be a challenge to make sure that the most important tasks get done.

If you feel like you’re working all day, but then wonder why none of your completed tasks were important, this is for you!

Productivity isn't about how much you get done, it's about doing the right stuff. 

The basics: I’m assuming you already use a to do list, if you don’t, check this out. I’m also assuming you look at that to do list and stick to those items.

So let’s get to it!

Look at your list. Are they written in order of priority or in the order that you remembered them? Are things like “laundry” mixed in with “apply for health insurance?” Here’s how to triage your life and get shit done:

1. Prioritize. If you feel like every task is important and time sensitive, you’re dead wrong. Categorize each task into one of the following:

  • High Importance; Urgent. These are the big-ticket items that relate to your goals or most important things in life. Ex. Make doctor’s appointment for weird growth.
  • High Importance; Not Urgent. These are the large items that don’t have a looming deadline. Ex. Make plans to see family.
  • Low Importance; Urgent. Often, these are the annoying day-to-day tasks that have a date they must be completed by. Ex. Return shoes to store.
  • Low importance; Not Urgent. These are the items that need to get done at some point, but the timing isn’t vital. Ex. Buy book friend recommended.

2. Verb it. Phrase all to-do items as bite-sized & actionable items. For example, instead of “Dinner Party” which is an amorphous & overwhelming item, break it down into something clear and concrete. Ex. Invite guests, buy groceries, etc. Not only will you have a better sense of how much time it will take, but you'll be more likely to take action when you know exactly what needs to be done.

3. Pick 3 Wins. Each day, decide on the three non-negotiable wins. These are the most important items for the day based on priority and time sensitivity. And, assuming you did #2, you should have a clear idea of what the action involves to block out an appropriate amount of time. If 3 seems like a lot to start, pick fewer. If it doesn’t seem like enough, consider anything you do after those 3 to be extra-credit.

4. Know yourself.  I can’t write in the afternoon. I’m not creative when my mind is somewhere else. So, I don’t plan writing-heavy tasks between 1-4. Pay attention to your daily cycles and plan according to your energy level, mood, and ability to concentrate. 

5. Me before you. It’s like the safety video on your flight says, only help others with their oxygen mask after you have safely secured your own. Sounds selfish, but it isn’t. As a recovering codependent I can promise you that taking care of your work before others is what will energize you and get you to where you want to be. I’m not saying don’t help others, but make sure your work is completed first.


At the end of the day check in with yourself and ask, “Did I accomplish what I wanted to? Did I do the right tasks in the right order?” Completing a few of your top items is more important than completing 10 pointless ones.

How do you ensure you get the right stuff done? Share your tips with the Community in the Comments section below!